Monday, March 30, 2020

Franklin on Aristotelian realism and mathematics

At YouTube, mathematician and philosopher James Franklin, author of An Aristotelian Realist Philosophy of Mathematics, offers a brief introduction to the subject.  Also check out the website he and some others have devoted to Aristotelian realism, as well as Franklin’s personal website.

A public lecture on mathematics and ethics that Franklin is scheduled to give on April 2 will, in light of the COVID-19 situation, be pre-recorded and posted online.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Craig, conventionalism, and voluntarism

At his personal Facebook page and also at the Reasonable Faith Facebook page, William Lane Craig briefly comments on my First Things review of his book God Over All.  Bill says:

For our philosophically inclined readers who are interested in divine aseity and Platonism, here's a great little philosophical exercise: Where does this review by Ed Feser go wrong? (Hint: do I hold that mathematical truth is conventional? Why think I should?)

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Aquinas anticipated everything

So notes a friend who sent me this image of the cover of a dissertation from the 1950s.  (No doubt the author was using the phrase in a different sense than has now become familiar.  Any guesses as to the true subject matter?)

Friday, March 20, 2020

Craig contra the truthmaker objection to presentism

Presentism holds that, in the temporal realm (that is to say, apart from eternal and aeviternal entities), only present objects and events exist.  Now, if statements about past events and objects are true, then there must be something that makes them true.  But in that case, the “truthmaker objection” to presentism holds, past objects and events must exist.  I’ve argued in previous posts that this objection is greatly overrated.  Indeed, for the reasons I gave there, I can’t myself fathom what all the fuss is about.  William Lane Craig seems to agree.  In his book God Over All (which I reviewed recently in First Things), he has occasion briefly to address the issue.  Craig writes:

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Coronavirus complications

For reasons most of which have to do directly or indirectly with the COVID-19 coronavirus situation, none of the remaining public lectures for the first half or so of the year that I had announced a couple of months ago will occur.  (There are still events planned for the latter half of the year, which I will announce closer to the time.)

Also, in light of the situation, my college, like many others, has abruptly transitioned to online teaching.  The resulting new workload promises to be as heavy as it was sudden and unexpected. 

I fully intend to keep this blog going to doomsday and beyond, but if things temporarily get a little slower here in the next couple of weeks as I adjust to this new reality, that is why!

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Review of Craig’s God Over All

My review of William Lane Craig’s book God Over All: Divine Aseity and the Challenge of Platonism appears in the April 2020 issue of First Things.  You can read it online here.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

On-topic open thread (and a word on trolls)

Folks, please don’t post off-topic comments in the comboxes.  I will delete them, and any responses to them, as soon as I see them, and (since I don’t always see them immediately) sometimes that means that a long thread will develop that is destined to end up in the ether.  Remember, if your comment begins with something like “This is off topic, but…,” then it isn’t a comment you should be posting.  And remember too, there is always that remedy for concupiscence known as the open thread.  Here’s the latest.  This time, everything is on topic, from acid jazz to Thomas Szasz, from Family Guy to Strong AI, from the coronavirus to Miley Cyrus.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

The other way to lose a war

Rod Dreher comments on the U.S. deal with the Taliban to withdraw, at long last, from Afghanistan.  He writes: “The Taliban whipped… the United States… We simply could not prevail.  The richest and most powerful nation in the world could not beat these SOBs.”  Well, that’s obviously not true in the usual sense of words like “whipped” and “beat.”  Suppose you effortlessly beat me to a bloody pulp and I fall to the ground, desperately panting for air and barely conscious.  You put your boot on my neck and demand that I cry “Uncle.”  I refuse, despite your repeated kicks to the gut, and after fifteen minutes or so of this you get bored and walk away.  It would be quite absurd if, wiping the blood off my face and pulling myself up to my wobbling knees, I proudly exclaim: “Did you see how I whipped that guy?”

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Agere sequitur esse and the First Way

Aquinas’s First Way is also known as the argument from motion to an Unmoved Mover.  The most natural way to read it is as an argument to the effect that things could not change at any given moment if there were no divine cause keeping the change going.  But some Thomists have read it instead as an argument to the effect that changing things could not even exist at any given moment if there were no divine cause keeping them in being.  That’s the reading I propose in my book Aquinas and my ACPQ article “Existential Inertia and the Five Ways,” and it’s a line of argument I develop and defend in greater depth in chapter 1 of Five Proofs of the Existence of God.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Morgan on Aristotle’s Revenge

At The Imaginative Conservative, Prof. Jason Morgan kindly reviews my book Aristotle’s Revenge.  From the review:

In 456 very well-written pages… (followed by a treasure trove of a bibliography), Dr. Feser shows in Aristotle’s Revenge that, point for point, Aristotle got science right, or as right as he could given the limitations in instrumentation and communication with other researchers during his time.  Scientists since the so-called Enlightenment have been trying to detach Aristotle’s greatest insight, the telos of things, from the world around them.  But the telos is the linchpin of the material world, so without it, everything, as is apparent from most philosophy lectures one attends nowadays, or nearly any philosophy book one reads, falls apart

Saturday, February 15, 2020

The socialist state as an occasionalist god

Hobbes famously characterized his Leviathan state as a mortal god.  Here’s another theological analogy, or set of analogies, which might illuminate the differences between kinds of political and economic orders – and in particular, the differences between socialism, libertarianism, and the middle ground natural law understanding of the state.

Recall that there are three general accounts of divine causality vis-à-vis the created order: occasionalism, mere conservationism, and concurrentism (to borrow Fred Freddoso’s classification).

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Sandstad and Jansen on Aristotle’s Revenge

At the Bryn Mawr Classical Review, philosophers Petter Sandstad and Ludger Jansen review my book Aristotle’s Revenge.  From the review:

Feser’s book adds to a growing body of literature on neo-Aristotelian approaches in metaphysics and the philosophy of science.  However, Feser stands out from other analytic neo-Aristotelians with his in-depth knowledge and discussion of 20th and 21st century neo-Thomistic literature, and one can learn a lot from reading this book

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Discussion with Graham Oppy

Earlier today on Cameron Bertuzzi’s Capturing Christianity program, I had a very pleasant and fruitful live exchange with Graham Oppy.  You can watch it on YouTube.  This is the second exchange Oppy and I have had on the show.  The first was last July, and you can still watch that on YouTube as well.  In that earlier exchange we discussed my book Five Proofs of the Existence of God.  The book comes up in the latest exchange as well, as does Oppy’s Religious Studies article “On stage one of Feser’s ‘Aristotelian proof.’”

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Review of Kerr

My review of Gaven Kerr’s excellent book Aquinas's Way to God: The Proof in De Ente et Essentia appears in the current issue of The Thomist (Vol. 83, No. 2).

Friday, January 31, 2020

Preternatural theology

Natural theology is traditionally distinguished from revealed theology.  Natural theology is concerned with knowledge about God’s existence and nature that is available to us via the use of our natural cognitive faculties, such as by way of philosophical arguments.  It does not require an appeal to any special divine revelation, whether embodied in scripture, the teachings of a prophet backed by miracles, or what have you.  There might happen to be teachings in some source of special divine revelation that overlap with the deliverances of natural theology, but what makes something a matter of natural theology is that it can at least in principle be known apart from that.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Adventures in the Old Atheism, Part IV: Marx

I have never been remotely attracted to Marxism.  Its economic reductionism, vision of human life as a struggle of antagonistic classes, hostility to the family, and the hermeneutics of suspicion enshrined in its theory of ideology, are all repulsive and inhuman.  Other elements, such as the theory of surplus value and prophecies about the withering away of the state and the idyll of life under communism, are sheer tosh.  These flaws are grave and real whatever one thinks about capitalism.  Indeed, opposition to Marxism is in my view a prerequisite to being a serious critic of capitalism, for Marxism contains none of the good that is in capitalism, much of the bad that is in it, and adds grave evils of its own to boot.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Aquinas 101

The Thomistic Institute has added to the great work it is already doing by introducing Aquinas 101, “a series of free video courses… that help you to engage life’s most urgent philosophical and theological questions with the wisdom of St. Thomas Aquinas.”  Here are four brief and lucid examples: Fr. Dominic Legge on the problem of evil, Fr. James Brent on the principle of non-contradiction, Fr. Thomas Joseph White on the abiding relevance of Aquinas, and Fr. Gregory Maria Pine on how to read the Summa Theologiae.  Check them out and enroll today!

Monday, January 20, 2020

Upcoming talks, etc.

On February 6 on Cameron Bertuzzi’s Capturing Christianity, Graham Oppy and I will resume the debate on the existence of God that we began last July.

On February 11, I will be giving a talk at Cornell University on the topic “What is Matter?”  The event is being hosted by the Thomistic Institute and will be at 6:30 pm in the Physical Science Building, Room 120.

On February 19, I will be giving a talk at UCLA on the same topic.  This event too is being hosted by the Thomistic Institute.  Keep an eye on the Thomistic Institute website for further details.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Johnson on Aristotle’s Revenge

At Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, Monte Ransome Johnson reviews my book Aristotle’s Revenge.  Prof. Johnson is an Aristotle scholar and historian of philosophy, which is relevant to understanding his review.  He says some nice things about the book, singling out my discussion of Aristotle and computationalism as “interesting” and writing:

Feser's book could be useful to those interested in defending anti-reductionist positions in various disputes in philosophy of science… Feser's impressive grasp of this anti-reductionist literature makes him a formidable polemicist, able to sift the avalanche of philosophy of science literature and find the concepts he is looking for

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Scruton’s virtues

The Guardian reports that conservative philosopher Sir Roger Scruton has died.  I vividly recall the first time I became aware of Scruton.  I was an undergraduate philosophy major in the late 1980s, and a professor had posted on the bulletin board near his office an article about Scruton, on which he’d scrawled the words: “Mrs. Thatcher’s favorite philosopher.”  It was not intended as a compliment.  But since I was a conservative as well as an aspiring philosopher, it attracted rather than repelled me.  During the many hours I spent in bookstores in those days, seeing Scruton’s name on the spine of a book became a reason instantly to pull it off the shelf and take a look.  And actually reading Scruton soon gave reason to seek out everything else he’d written.  Which, as every Scruton admirer knows, could become a full time job.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Review of Swinburne

My review of Richard Swinburne’s recent book Are We Bodies or Souls? appears in the February 2020 issue of First Things.  You can read it online.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

The rationalist/empiricist false choice

I’ve often argued that contemporary philosophers too often think only within the box of alternative positions inherited from their early modern forebears, neglecting or even being ignorant of the very different ways that pre-modern philosophers would carve up the conceptual territory.  One of the chief ways this is so has to do with the rationalist/empiricist dichotomy, as filtered through Kant.  It has hobbled clear thinking not only about epistemology, but also about metaphysics.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Links for a new year

Joseph Bessette on criminal sentencing laws and retributive justice, at Public Discourse.

The Catholic Thing on the late, great Michael Uhlmann.  Requiescat in pace, Mike.

At The Spectator, Roger Scruton looks back with gratitude at an annus horribilis.

Jez Rowden’s Steely Dan: Every Album, Every Song will be released next month.  Ultimate Classic Rock on the great Eagles/Steely Dan cross-reference.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Overestimating human responsibility

One of the many pernicious aspects of modern political life is the tendency, every time something bad happens, to look for someone to blame – or, where someone is to blame, to try to extend the blame to people who can’t reasonably be held responsible.  “It’s the Republicans’ fault!” “It’s the Democrats’ fault!” “It’s the NRA’s fault!”  “It’s the environmentalists’ fault!” “It’s the government’s fault!” “It’s the corporations’ fault!” “We need new legislation!”  “We need an investigation!”

Friday, December 20, 2019

Cundy on relativity and the A-theory of time

One of the many topics treated in Aristotle’s Revenge is the relationship between Aristotelian philosophy of nature and contemporary debates in the philosophy of time.  For example, I argue that, while at least the most fundamental claims of an Aristotelian philosophy of nature might be reconciled with the B-theory of time, the most natural position for an Aristotelian to take is an A-theory, and presentism in particular.  Thus was I led to defend presentism in the book – which requires, among other things, arguing that the presentist view of time has not been refuted by relativity theory.  Nigel Cundy disagrees.  A physicist with a serious interest in and knowledge of Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy, he has posted a detailed and thoughtful critique of this part of my book at his blog The Quantum Thomist.  Cundy thinks that presentism cannot be reconciled with relativity, and that other A-theories of time at least sit badly with it.  What follows is a response.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

New from Oderberg

Fans of David S. Oderberg have long been looking forward to a new book from him, and now it is here – just in time to fill Christmas stockings.  The Metaphysics of Good and Evil is out this month from Routledge.  Details can be found at Routledge’s website.  From the cover copy:

The Metaphysics of Good and Evil is the first, full-length contemporary defence, from the perspective of analytic philosophy, of the Scholastic theory of good and evil – the theory of Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, and most medieval and Thomistic philosophers. Goodness is analysed as obedience to nature. Evil is analysed as the privation of goodness. Goodness, surprisingly, is found in the non-living world, but in the living world it takes on a special character. The book analyses various kinds of goodness, showing how they fit into the Scholastic theory. The privation theory of evil is given its most comprehensive contemporary defence, including an account of truthmakers for truths of privation and an analysis of how causation by privation should be understood. In the end, all evil is deviance – a departure from the goodness prescribed by a thing’s essential nature.

Science et Esprit on Aristotle’s Revenge

In the latest issue of the journal Science et Esprit (Vol. 72, Nos. 1-2), René Ardell Fehr kindly reviews my book Aristotle’s Revenge.  Judging it a “fine work,” Fehr writes:

Feser’s book attempts to support the broad Aristotelian metaphysical structure and its interpretation of modern science as the interpretation, while at the same time defending that structure from the attacks of philosophical naturalists and attacking the metaphysical assumptions of said naturalists.  It is a credit to Feser that he sees the inherent danger in such a project; throughout Aristotle’s Revenge he insists that he is not attacking modern science itself.  Feser writes: “I am not pitting philosophy of nature against physics.  I am pitting one philosophy of nature against another philosophy of nature.”

Friday, December 13, 2019

Brungardt on Aristotle’s Revenge

At Thomistica, philosopher John Brungardt reviews Aristotle’s Revenge.  He provides a fairly detailed overview of its methods and contents, and judges it “a broad, substantive book” that “has gathered and ordered a nearly universal range of topics and contemporary sources in the philosophy of nature and science,” so that “it is essential reading for those interested in the topic of the perennial Aristotelian philosophy of nature and its relationship to the particular natural sciences.”

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Word to the Wise

Eric Wise takes to Facebook to express shock that an author would be annoyed with a book reviewer who doesn’t have anything to say about the actual contents of the book under review.  He also manages to pack an amazing amount of further obfuscatory nonsense into a small space.

Wise defends his criticism of my arguing for broadly Aristotelian views rather than grappling with Aristotle’s own texts by noting that the title of my book is, after all, Aristotle’s Revenge.  Shouldn’t I have called it something else if it wasn’t going to be offering detailed exegesis of De Partibus Animalium?  This is like criticizing Tolstoy’s title War and Peace on the grounds that it is really just about the Napoleonic invasion of Russia rather than war in general, or objecting to Nietzsche’s title The Antichrist on the grounds that it isn’t really about eschatology or apocalyptic literature. (I thought Straussians were not supposed to be literal-minded.)

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Unwise book reviewing

Honestly, what runs through editors’ minds when they assign book reviewers?  The Claremont Review of Books has just run a review of Aristotle’s Revenge, by some fellow named J. Eric Wise.  And, heaven help us, it’s Glenn Ellmers’ review redivivus

Anyone who has read my book will be keen to learn what a reviewer might say about my views on topics like: embodied cognition and embodied perception; epistemic structural realism; causal powers and laws of nature; the A- and B-theories of time; presentism; reductionism in chemistry; primary versus secondary qualities; computational notions in natural science; biological reductionism; evolution and essentialism; neuroscientific reductionism; and so on.  You know, the stuff I actually discuss in the book.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The thread about nothing

It’s open thread time.  There is no topic, which means everything is on topic.  Now is the time finally to raise that issue that you keep bringing up out of left field in other threads – in comments I keep deleting while cussing you out under my breath.  From the Manhattan Project to the Manhattan Transfer, from Brian De Palma to Pachamama, from frontal lobotomies to Kantian autonomy – go ahead and hash it out.  As always, keep it civil, classy, and free of trolling and troll-feeding.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Was Aquinas a property dualist?

One must always be cautious when trying to relate Aquinas’s position on some philosophical issue to the options familiar to contemporary academic philosophers.  Sometimes he is not addressing quite the same questions they are, even when he seems to be.  Sometimes he does not use key terms in the same ways they do.  And he is working with a general metaphysical picture of the world – in particular, a picture of the nature of substance, essence, causation, matter, and other fundamental notions – that is radically different from the options familiar to contemporary philosophers, in ways the latter often do not realize.

Time-sensitive Turkey Day tweets (Updated)

UPDATE 12/10: I'm told that the Gordon-Carrier debate has been cancelled and may be rescheduled for another date.

Palgrave Macmillan announces a Cyber Week Sale until December 3.  Good time to pick up that copy of Aristotle on Method and Metaphysics you’ve been pining for.

Readers in the Los Angeles area might be interested to know that there will be a debate on December 13 at 7 pm between Catholic writer Timothy Gordon and atheist Richard Carrier, at St. Therese Catholic Church in Alhambra.

Monday, November 25, 2019

The Last Superstition in French

My book The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism is now available in a French translation.  The book is also available in Portuguese and German

While we're on the subject of translations, I suppose I might offer a reminder that Five Proofs of the Existence of God and Philosophy of Mind are also available in German, and that a book of some of my essays is available in Romanian.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Against candy-ass Christianity

The Mr. Rogers biopic, with Tom Hanks in the starring role, comes out this week and has been getting a lot of positive attention – in some cases, embarrassingly rapturous attention.  This might seem surprising coming from Hollywood types and secular liberals, given that Rogers was a Presbyterian minister.  But of course, Rogers’ adherence to Christian teaching has nothing to do with it.  Commenting on the movie, Angelus magazine reports that “Hanks mentions that Rogers was indeed an ordained minister but seems to take comfort that Rogers ‘never mentioned God in his show.’”  In the movie’s trailer, a man says to Mr. Rogers “You love broken people, like me,” to which Rogers replies “I don’t think you are broken” – never mind the doctrine of original sin.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Join the Ur-Platonist alliance!

What’s in a name?  I’m an unreconstructed Thomist, but I would be the last to deny that it is a mistake to think that one man, Thomas Aquinas, somehow got everything right all by himself.  Aquinas was, of course, part of a much larger tradition that extends back to the ancient Greek philosophers.  Much of his achievement had to do with synthesizing the best elements from the different strands of thought he inherited from his predecessors, especially the Platonic-Augustinian and Aristotelian traditions.  And of course, his successors added further important elements to the mix. 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Oppy and Lim on Five Proofs

Graham Oppy’s article “On stage one of Feser’s ‘Aristotelian proof’”, which responds to some of the arguments I give in Five Proofs of the Existence of God, has recently been posted at the website of the journal Religious Studies.  I will be writing up a response.  (In the meantime, readers who have not seen it may be interested in my recent debate with Oppy on Capturing Christianity.) 

In the Fall 2019 issue of Nova et Vetera, Joshua Lim kindly reviews Five Proofs.  From the review:

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Two popes and idolatry

How bad can a bad pope get?  Pretty bad.  Here are two further examples from history.  Marcellinus was pope from c. 296 – 304.  During his pontificate, Emperor Diocletian initiated a persecution of the Christians, requiring the surrender of sacred texts and the offering of incense to the Roman gods.  Marcellinus and some of his clergy apparently complied, though Marcellinus is also said to have repented of this after a few days and to have suffered martyrdom as a result.  Some claim that by virtue of his compliance he was guilty of a formal apostasy that resulted in loss of the papal office, though his purported repentance and martyrdom also led to his veneration and recognition as a saint.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Cambridge Companion to Natural Law Ethics

My article “Natural Law Ethics and the Revival of Aristotelian Metaphysics” appears in The Cambridge Companion to Natural Law Ethics, edited by Tom Angier.  You can find out more about the volume at the Cambridge University Press website and at Cambridge Core.

Monday, November 4, 2019

The strange case of Pope Vigilius

The increasingly strange pontificate of Pope Francis is leading many Catholics into increasingly strange behavior.  Some, like the emperor’s sycophants in the Hans Christian Anderson story, insist with ever greater shrillness that nothing Pope Francis does is ever really in the least bit problematic.  If your eyes seem plainly to be telling you otherwise, then it is, they insist, your lying eyes that are the problem.  Others, incapable of such self-deception, are driven into a panic by the pope’s manifestly problematic words and actions.  They overreact, either beating a retreat into sedevacantism or judging that the claims of Catholicism have been proven false and that the only recourse is Eastern Orthodoxy.